Week in Brief: 18-24 March 2018

25 March 2018

Week in Brief: 18-24 March 2018

Story of the week

Trump signs $60 billion tariff memo

US President Donald Trump signed a presidential memorandum on Thursday, potentially imposing tariffs on up to US $60 billion worth of imports from China.

The move comes as a push to combat the $486 billion goods trade deficit with China, and China’s “state-led market-distorting” violations of US intellectual property rights.

The terms of the memorandum direct US Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer to propose tariff increases on a range of 1,300 products seen as benefitting from US technology, subject to a consultation period designed to give industry lobbyists and legislators a chance to fine-tune the products to be targeted.

The move sent the stock markets plunging, with the Dow Jones industrial average closing 724 points down after the announcement, which is seen as raising risks of upsetting the global economy and bringing on a trade war with China.

The memorandum signing was met with a sharp response from the Chinese, with the Chinese embassy in Washington noting its strong disappointment and opposition to the tariff plan, stating that China would not recoil from a trade war if necessary, and would “fight to the end… with all necessary measures”.

China also hit back with their own tariffs, raising tariffs on 128 different US products including 15% on, wine, fruit, nuts, ethanol, ginseng, steel pipes, and by 25% on pork and aluminum pipe — affecting some $3 billion of US sales to China.


Australia

Extreme weather continues around Australia

Multiple extreme weather events have been occurring in various locations around Australia over the past week.

Tropical Cyclone Nora hit Darwin last week, and is projected to hit northern Queensland this weekend. It is expected to intensify to a category four, with wind speeds of around 170km/h.

Bushfires have also claimed dozens of homes in the town of Tathra, and affected many more in areas nearby, including Bega. Power outages from these fires have impacted hundreds of homes, and many people have had to evacuate.

While the flooding in Queensland and across the east coast has eased, there has been significant damage caused — particularly to many farms in the affected areas. It is being called the worst flooding in 20 years.

Beached pilot whales in WA no laughing matter

At Hamelin Beach, in Hamelin Bay, on the south-western corner of Western Australia, over 140 short-finned pilot whales beached themselves on Friday.

It is unknown as to why this happened.

Despite the valiant efforts of many volunteers on the day, only a few whales managed to survive and return to the water.

The work is still ongoing to resolve the situation and a shark alert has been issued for the area.

90% of Australians have tooth decay, thinktank report finds

The Oral Health Tracker, a report released by the Australian Health Policy Collaboration, shows that Australians don’t look after their teeth too well.

Only half of Australians brush their teeth twice a day, 15.5% have severe tooth loss, only a quarter of teens have a dental checkup annually, and 90% have some form of tooth decay.

The report details the root culprits as smoking, drinking, and an over-consumption of sugar, with the data showing almost three-quarters of children eat too much sugar.


World

H. R. McMaster out, Trump to replace with John Bolton

The National Security Adviser to the President, General H. R. Mcmaster, will step down from his role in April, to be replaced by former US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton.

The announcement was made by President Trump on Twitter, with the President thanking the outgoing General for “an outstanding job”.

Mr Bolton, a Bush administration official who is known as a “hawk” for his views on preventative war, will assume the position on 9 April, and will not require US Senate confirmation.

Bitcoin’s blockchain could be illegal

A team of German researchers have discovered illicit material in Bitcoin’s blockchain.

Users of Bitcoin can leave non-financial data in the blockchain, much of which is text and images; some of this may be illegal in many countries, including links to child pornography, or child abuse images. As such, it may become illegal—or could already be illegal—to have Bitcoin’s blockchain.

There is no definitive court ruling on this as yet, and it is not known what effect this may have on Bitcoin.

After threatening veto on Twitter, Trump signs $1.3 trillion spending bill

After threatening to veto an omnibus spending bill intended to avoid a government shutdown, President Trump signed it into law on Friday.

The spending bill contains $1.3 trillion in measures, detailed in 2,232 pages. The bill answers a funding deadline set in February, after an agreement to boost domestic spending by $128 billion and defence spending by $160 billion over two years.

The detail primarily extended funding of the federal government at current spending levels to March 23, but also included specific measures such as  increased funding for CBP and ICE enforcement, $1.6 billion for Trump’s border wall, a ban on employers taking worker’s tips, a measure that requires state law enforcement to report criminal records to the NICS to try and combat gun violence, and new funding for disaster relief and opioid treatment.

The President issued his threat via Twitter, but backed down under pressure from Republican congressional leaders. He expressed his displeasure at the bill despite signing it, stating that he did not veto it because of the increase in funding for the military and national security reasons, but deriding the package as a “ridiculous situation” and that he was unhappy about measures in the bill.

Hetook to Twitter to state he would never sign a bill like this again, and calling for a line veto power to remove items from government spending bills.

Last male northern white rhino dies

Named Sudan, he died at the age of 45 in Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.

While this is not an abnormal age for this species to live to, it is a sad day for the world indeed.

The only two remaining northern white rhinos are his daughter Najin, and grand-daughter Fatu. His genetic material was collected, in the hope that it can one day be used to bring back the species.

While there are still thousands of southern white rhinos, northern white rhinos have been the victim of many years of poaching. Many other species still remain in danger from this vicious trade.

Trump issues order banning transgender troops

President Trump has issued an order supporting a ban on transgender troops.

Last summer, the President issued a full ban that was deferred by Defense Secretary for consideration. Under recommendations from the deferral, Friday’s decision revokes the full ban but disqualifies US troops who have had gender reassignment surgery.

The rationale behind the move, as detailed by the White House, centers around gender dysphoria “presenting considerable risk to military effectiveness and lethality”.

Current transgender troops are allowed to stay, so long as they have not undergone reassignment surgery and have been medically stable for 36 consecutive months in their biological sex before joining the military. Those diagnosed with gender dysphoria after the Obama administration lifted the ban on their service in 2016 will also be allowed to continue to serve.